5 ways to make your bike more comfortable

5 ways to make your bike more comfortable

It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing 5 miles, or 50, an uncomfortable bike can ruin your ride. It’s common to feel soreness and even pain while riding, because – like all exercise – you’re testing yourself. But not all pain is good.

If you’ve ever experienced any strange soreness or pain during a ride or after it, you’ll be pleased to know there are a few simple adjustments that could help make your bike more comfortable.

In this article, we describe five ways you can make your bike more comfortable.

What should I watch out for?

Cycling is an incredible form of exercise. Even a short burst on the bike will raise your heart rate and work your muscles, leaving you feeling better and your body healthier.

If you’re an experienced cyclist, you’ll be able to tell between the normal aches and pains from a ride and unnatural pain. A stiff neck, lower back pain, pins and needle in your hands, tension in your shoulders, a painful saddle sore or sharp knee pain may be familiar feelings during a ride or after it.

But if you’re experiencing sharp pain during a ride or after it, then you must get to the root cause of it – and fix it. Continue to ride, and you could find that these annoying ailments develop into a full-blown injury that could stop you riding.

Here are five common causes of pain while riding and how you can fix them.

1. Check your reach

Your reach is a term to describe the horizontal distance between your bike’s bottom bracket (where your feet meet the pedals) and the handlebars.

If you’re suffering from lower back pain or shoulder tension, then it may be that you are stretching too far to reach your handlebars. By changing your reach, you may tackle this common problem.

How to check your bike reach

The easiest way to adjust your reach is to change your bike’s stem. The stem is the bar that links your handlebars to the forks. They come in a variety of lengths and are simple to swap, with replacement stems available cheaply.

A shorter stem will bring the handlebars closer towards you, reducing how far you have to stretch to grab the handlebars, thus reducing pressure on your back and shoulders. If you feel cramped up when riding, a longer stem could offer that extra degree of freedom when cycling.

Making changes to any aspect of the setup of your bike can have an impact elsewhere, so we recommend making small adjustments until you find the right length stem.

Before you start with the spanner, here’s a brief word of warning! Changing a bike’s stem can change how the bike handles. A shorter stem will make bike handling sharper, with a longer stem making steering feel slower.

2. Adjust handlebar height or angle

If you’re suffering from back pain, you may be stretching too far to reach your handlebars.

You may be able to add some spacers underneath your stem to raise the handlebars, creating a more upright riding position – something which might solve lower back niggles. Our Halfords Bikehut Carbon Spacers are a lightweight option that is suitable for 1 1/8” steerers that are common on road bikes.

This change is only possible if you have space on the fork steerer to slot in spacers. If the stem is already at the top of the fork steerer, then it’s impossible to raise it any higher.

You can also adjust the angle of your handlebars, which can have an impact on bike fit and feel. Simply by releasing the four bolts from the front of the stem (but not entirely removing them), you can tilt the handlebars up or down.

Some riders prefer them to be perfectly horizontal, others a slight dip forward or tilted backwards. As with all bike matters, be careful with the adjustments and make minor changes at a time. Also, before setting off ensure the handlebars are secured to the stem, and you can reach and operate both brakes safely.

3. Change your saddle height or angle

Having your saddle set too high or low is a common cause of pain as you pedal. If it’s too high, you could experience knee pain as you’re stretching on each revolution. Set too low, and you’ll be cramped on the bike – which can be painful as well as being highly inefficient.

As a general rule of thumb, your saddle should be set at a level where you can you touch the ground with the tips of your toes while you are sat on it. It’s easy to adjust the height of your seatpost, even while out on a ride, so find the height that works for you. You can make a mark on the seatpost with a pen, or even some tape so you’ll always know your perfect saddle height.

The angle of your saddle is also another consideration. Saddle angle is about personal preference, but if you’re finding riding uncomfortable is something you should look at. If the seat is tilted too far forward, you’ll find yourself leaning forwards and putting pressure on your arms. If the saddle is tilting upwards, it will be painful. Take a look at our guide to choosing the right saddle.

As a starting point, use a spirit level to ensure your saddle is perfectly level. You can then make making micro-adjustments from there. Leisure riders should aim for a flat saddle. Roadies and mountain bikers often have a noticeable dip in the saddle to push them forwards, with urban and e-bike riders somewhere in the middle.

If after adjusting the saddle height and angle, if riding still feels like you’re sat on a bed of hot coals, it might be time to change your saddle for a more suitable model.

We recommend starting your search for posterior perfection by measuring your current saddle’s width. Most cases of saddle discomfort can be attributed to a rider spinning out the miles on a perch that’s not the correct width for them. A saddle with a cut-out, designed to reduce pressure when riding, may also help.

Our new Boardman range comes with saddles designed using advanced pressure mapping and real-world testing to ensure they’re suitable for all riders.

4. Check your pedals and cleats

Poor pedals can lead to pain and discomfort, so they’re worth checking out. Are they spinning freely? Can you feel any play in the bearings? If the pedals shift while you are riding, it can cause knee pain – particularly if you use cleats.

We know that not all riders use cleats, but if you do, they can be a cause of pain and discomfort if they aren’t set up correctly. As a general guide, cleats should be positioned on the ball of your foot, angled straight. You can adjust the location of the cleats and even the angle on your shoes with a hex key until you find the right place.

5. How’s your tyre pressure?

Tyre pressure is crucial at reducing tolling resistance, so we always advise you to keep your tyres topped up. However, if you’re feeling every bump in the road, try reducing your tyre pressure by 5-10 PSI.

A small reduction in tyre pressure can iron out the rough stuff, helping you feel a little fresher for longer. A small reduction in tyre pressure won’t make a huge difference to performance but will increase comfort.

If you’re looking for other ways to smooth out a ride, consider investing in a new set of wider tyres. Wider tyres have a greater surface area in contact with the road, which can help to improve shock absorption and ride quality. All of our exclusive Carrera road bikes come with 28mm clearance, which means they can wear some seriously wide rubber.

Worried about punctures at lower tyre pressures? You could even think about changing to a tubeless setup. Running tubeless should eliminate the likelihood of a pinch flat, enabling you to run much lower tyre pressures than you would with a traditional tyre and tube.

Check with a professional

If you’re pushing yourself and your body, you’ll always experience a little pain when riding – and that’s a good thing. If the strain is affecting your performance and your enjoyment, then fix it now before it gets worse.

Sometimes the source of your discomfort can be fixed with one change, sometimes it might take a combination. We recommend that you only change one thing at a time then go for a ride. If it hasn’t solved the problem, start again.

If you want some expert information and advice on bike fit, servicing and set up, visit a Halfords store where you can discuss your issues with one of our trained technicians. They’re experts in bike setup, maintenance and modification.